Karim Benzema has recovered from injury ahead of Real Madrid's Champions League clash with Liverpool on Wednesday, with Carlo Ancelotti warning Los Blancos to forget last month's win at Anfield.

Benzema joined Vinicius Junior in scoring twice as Madrid thrashed Jurgen Klopp's men 5-2 in February's last-16 first leg, but the striker has seen his form dip since that rout.

The Madrid skipper has failed to find the net in three consecutive games across all competitions, while injuries have limited him to just 15 appearances in LaLiga this campaign.

Benzema sat out Saturday's 3-1 win over Espanyol with an ankle problem, but Ancelotti says he is fit and raring to go ahead of Liverpool's visit to the Santiago Bernabeu.

"Benzema is 100 per cent recovered. He has done good work in training sessions since Sunday," Ancelotti said at Tuesday's pre-match press conference.  

"He has great enthusiasm for this game. For me, for the players, for the club and for Karim, this is a massive competition."

Asked about Benzema's lack of form in recent weeks, Ancelotti said: "We're not talking about criticism. We're talking about his condition, how he's doing... I see him looking good, motivated and excited for tomorrow's game."

Madrid became the first visiting team to score five goals in a European fixture at Anfield last month, and they have progressed from 26 of their 27 European Cup/Champions League ties when winning on the road in the first leg.

However, with Liverpool one of just four sides to have overturned a first-leg deficit of three goals or more to win a Champions League tie, Ancelotti remains wary of their threat.

"We have to work on our defence and what we do in the final third. We're not focused on that first leg," he said.

"We've got our game plan, which we're going to stick to. We'll try to start off strongly, play with plenty of tempo and look to win the match.

"We're going to approach this match like its just 90 minutes, we're not going to get the calculator out and work out how many goals we need. We can't focus purely on defending."

 

Madrid were involved in several dramatic Champions League ties last term, including when they squandered a 3-1 first-leg lead over Chelsea before sealing a 5-4 aggregate win in the last eight in extra time in the home leg.

Ancelotti is determined to enjoy a smoother passage to the next stage on Wednesday, saying: "Maybe people don't see me that stressed, but of course I suffer a lot and against Chelsea, I did! 

"Everyone played their part on that day and it was a remarkable victory. We've got to make sure it's a very different game this time.

"That's why I said we're not going to get our calculator out. We're going to make sure we book our place in the next round."

Carlo Ancelotti has backed Karim Benzema to play a big part in Real Madrid's end to the season.

The French striker has come in for criticism as Madrid have struggled for goals domestically in recent weeks, despite his brace against Liverpool in their 5-2 win at Anfield in the Champions League last-16 first leg.

Ballon d'Or holder Benzema has scored 11 goals in 15 LaLiga games but has not netted in his last three in all competitions, and he will be missing from the team for Saturday's home game with Espanyol because of an ankle injury.

"He was a key player for us [last season], he performed incredibly, scored more than 40 goals," Ancelotti said at a press conference on Friday.

"It affected us a bit [earlier this season] because he couldn't reach his top level. This second part of the season he has been important for us, and we think he will be key for us until the end of the season. He has a knock, and he has to get better."

Regarding Benzema's contract, which expires at the end of the season, Ancelotti said: "He has been here for so many years, I'm absolutely sure about what's going to happen next year, but I'm not a magician."

The Madrid head coach was also asked again about the possibility of signing long-term target Kylian Mbappe after Paris Saint-Germain's exit from the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

"Well, it's a question you can ask me whenever, but it is something to which I will never reply," he said.

Ancelotti confirmed Rodrygo will play as the central striker against Espanyol, adding: "He has to play where the team needs him, maybe at some point he can play as a winger to show his quality, or as a number 10, but he can play in different places."

He was also asked about criticism of him and his team for their recent form, having not won any of their three games since the success at Liverpool (D2 L1).

"I don't want to think about it, but it is always like this," Ancelotti said. "When there are difficult moments, criticism starts."

Carlo Ancelotti is not concerned by Real Madrid's struggles in front of goal and is confident Karim Benzema will soon get back to scoring ways.

Madrid failed to register a single shot on target in Thursday's 1-0 Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg loss to Barcelona – the first time that has happened in a home game since 2010.

Los Blancos managed seven attempts on target in their most recent LaLiga outing, but they found the net from just one of those in a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid.

Benzema played a full part in both games without scoring, but his mini drought was preceded by a two-goal showing in Madrid's stunning 5-2 Champions League win at Liverpool.

The former France international has 18 goals in 26 appearances this season, and Ancelotti defended Benzema's displays ahead of facing Real Betis.

"It's not possible to be 'at the top' in every game," Ancelotti said at Saturday's pre-match press conference. "Karim doesn't worry me because I see him in good shape.

"He's in a good physical condition, certainly better than in the first part of the season. At the offensive level, collectively, we are very good.

"We are the team with the most goals in the league. Benzema has failed at some specific moments, nothing more. But there is no 'offensive problem'. We scored five at Anfield."

 

Vinicius Junior was fouled a game-high five times against Barca and has now been fouled 130 times this term – 32 times more than any player across Europe's top five leagues.

The Brazil winger reacted angrily to a couple of challenges, but Ancelotti is not concerned about the 22-year-old being sent off for retaliating.

"It doesn't worry me at all," Ancelotti said. "The important thing here is that Vinicius doesn't lose the love of playing. 

"In recent games they have defended against him very well, that's why it has cost him at times."

Madrid are aiming to avoid going three games without a win in all competitions for the first time this season when they face Betis.

Ancelotti's side, who trail leaders Barcelona by seven points, have won five of their past six visits to Betis in LaLiga.

"We enter the game in good shape and we are recovering players," Ancelotti said. "We know Sunday's game will be difficult against a great team who play attractive football.

"There is no margin for error. We will have to give everything to get the win."

David Alaba has offered an explanation for his vote at the FIFA Best awards after he listed Lionel Messi ahead of his Real Madrid team-mate Karim Benzema.

Alaba was subjected to online abuse, including racist remarks, after his choice was made public with Madrid fans starting a hashtag of #AlabaOut after he voted for Messi first, Benzema second and Kylian Mbappe third.

The Austria captain took to Twitter to explain that the vote was not his alone, but that of his entire national team.

"Regarding FIFA The Best Award: The Austrian national team vote for this award as a team, not me alone," he wrote. "Everyone in the team council is able to vote and that's how it's decided.

"Everyone knows, especially Karim, how much I admire him and his performances and I have often said that for me he is the best striker in the world, and that is still the case. Without doubt."

Messi claimed the men's prize at an awards ceremony in Paris on Monday after leading Argentina to glory at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Lionel Messi, Lionel Scaloni and Emiliano Martinez made it a clean sweep for Argentina in Monday's glitzy ceremony for the Best FIFA Awards in Paris.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Messi was crowned the Best FIFA Men's Player, Scaloni took the the Best FIFA Men's Coach and Martinez the Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper.

The award period spans between the start of the 2021-22 season through to the end of the 2022 World Cup, which saw Argentina end their 36-year wait to win the competition.

Martinez, who plies his club trade for Aston Villa, finished ahead of Thibaut Courtois and Yassine Bounou of Real Madrid and Sevilla respectively in the voting – although Courtois made the cut for the FIFPro Men's World 11.

Scaloni was next to pick up an award after seeing off competition from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti, who won a LaLiga and Champions League double last season.

La Albiceleste have lost just one of their 23 games since the start of last season, with their solitary loss coming in their opening Qatar 2022 group game against Saudi Arabia.

Messi made it three from three for Argentina by claiming the top prize at the ceremony in the French capital, which started with a poignant tribute to Brazil great Pele.

Madrid striker Karim Benzema and Messi's PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe had also been in the running for the award.

Argentina's fans also claimed the FIFA Fan Award.

Their domination on the men's side was not quite matched by European champions England in the women's prizes.

While Argentina dominated the men's side of the voting, it was a clean sweep for England in the women's side of things.

Mary Earps was named the Best FIFA Women's Goalkeeper and Sarina Wiegman took the Best FIFA Women's Coach award for a third time.

But Beth Mead was pipped to the Best FIFA Women's Player accolade by Alexia Putellas, last year's winner.

Other winners included Luka Lochoshvili, then of Austrian side Wolfsberger, in the FIFA Fair Play Award category for potentially saving the life of opponent Georg Teigl during a game after the Austria Vienna player fell unconscious mid-match.

Polish amputee footballer Marcin Oleksy won the FIFA Puskas Award for the best goal for his perfectly executed bicycle kick for Warta Poznan against Stal Rzeszow.

Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina forward Lionel Messi has won the Best FIFA Men's Player award for a second time.

Messi saw off competition from club-mate Kylian Mbappe and Real Madrid's Karim Benzema to collect the award at Monday's ceremony in Paris.

The award spans the period between the start of the 2021-22 season through to the end of the World Cup, which saw Messi end Argentina's 36-year wait to win the competition.

Former Barcelona superstar Messi claimed the Golden Ball award in Qatar – given to the best player of the tournament – after scoring seven goals and assisting three more.

Those 10 direct goal involvements were matched by Mbappe, who finished as top scorer, but that was not enough to see the France forward win his first Best FIFA award.

 

Messi made a slow start to life at PSG by his own personal high standards, scoring 11 goals and assisting 14 in 34 games in his maiden campaign at the Parc des Princes.

However, the 35-year-old – who has also won a record seven Ballons d'Or – matched those figures in his first 18 games this season ahead of the World Cup.

Messi, who previously won the Best FIFA award in 2019, joins Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski as two-time winners, having also finished as a runner-up three times.

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone is plotting to bring Real Madrid back down to earth when he makes history in Saturday's derby at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The former Argentina midfielder will take charge of his 425th LaLiga game as Atleti boss, which is more than any other coach has overseen for one club in the Spanish top flight.

Simeone will also match Luis Aragones' record tally of 612 competitive matches in the dugout for the capital club, taking in all competitions.

Los Blancos could ensure Simeone is no mood to celebrate after maintaining their impressive form by coming from two goals down to hammer Liverpool 5-2 in the Champions League at Anfield on Tuesday.

Ahead of kick-off, Stats Perform previews the big game with a healthy serving of Opta data.

 

Derby delight in short supply for Atleti

Atleti have only won one of their last 13 LaLiga meetings against their city rivals, Yannick Carrasco's penalty securing a 1-0 victory last May.

Los Blancos have come out on top in six and drawn as many times in the other dozen encounters.

Simeone's side have suffered three consecutive LaLiga losses at the home of their rivals without scoring a goal.

Carlo Ancelotti's men have already beaten Atleti twice this season, most recently a 3-1 Copa del Rey triumph after extra time last month.

Ruthless champions firing on all cylinders

Madrid have one foot in the Champions League quarter-finals after putting sorry Liverpool to the sword on Merseyside in an incredible first leg.

Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema helped themselves to doubles as the holders stormed back from sliding two goals down inside 15 minutes.

The LaLiga and European champions, who also won the Club World Cup this month, have won five games in a row and scored 20 goals in the process.

Second-placed Madrid are eight points behind leaders Barcelona and 10 better off than Atleti, who occupy fourth spot.

Atleti building momentum

Simeone's side have also improved of late, winning three times and drawing with Getafe since losing the Copa del Rey derby tie.

All three of those wins were by 1-0 margins, and Atletico have not been beaten in six LaLiga matches.

That is their longest unbeaten run in the competition this season, moving them two points behind third-placed Real Sociedad.

Beware Benzema

Madrid captain Karim Benzema's double against the Reds ensured he has scored five goals in his last three matches.

The Ballon d'Or winner has 17 goals in all competition this season despite enduring injury frustration.

Benzema has enjoyed facing Atleti, scoring in three of his last four derbies in LaLiga. He will be looking to find the back of the net against Simeone's side in a third consecutive game.

Karim Benzema will start the first leg of Real Madrid's Champions League tie with Liverpool, says Carlo Ancelotti, who is backing Vinicius Junior to shine against the Reds once again.

Madrid were without Benzema for Saturday's 2-0 win at Osasuna, with Ancelotti intent on managing the striker's minutes after he endured an injury-hit few months.  

Ancelotti said the 2022 Ballon d'Or winner would not have faced Liverpool had the first leg of the last-16 tie taken place on Saturday, raising fears he could miss out on Tuesday.

However, Benzema – who top-scored with 15 goals in 12 Champions League appearances last season – has been passed fit to feature from the off on Merseyside.

Asked about Benzema's availability at Monday's pre-match press conference, Ancelotti said: "I see Benzema looking well, tomorrow he will start."

Benzema is looking to end a five-game goal drought in the Champions League, having failed to net in 324 minutes in the competition since his decisive penalty in last May's semi-final second leg against Manchester City.

While Benzema will start, Madrid will be without midfielders Toni Kroos and Aurelien Tchouameni at Anfield, but Ancelotti is backing others – including Luka Modric – to step up.

"I'd like to have them," he said of the midfield duo. "It's a forced transition that we didn't want. It doesn't worry me because the feeling we have without them is good. 

"Those who have replaced Toni and Tchouameni have done well and we have confidence in the whole squad.

"Modric didn't have a good time in January but now he's back to his best level and he's going to keep growing. His condition is good and he still wants to play for Madrid."

Madrid's last meeting with Liverpool was a memorable one for followers of Los Blancos, as Vinicius' goal handed them victory in last season's Champions League final in Paris.

The Brazilian has enjoyed another outstanding campaign for Madrid, though it has been marred by several incidents where he has faced racist abuse from the stands at LaLiga games.

Asked if Vinicius was looking forward to a fixture outside of Spain, Ancelotti said: "He likes to play anywhere. Vini is handling it well and it doesn't affect his performance on the pitch.

"The issue of racism is very serious and complicated, there is no law that changes a person's head, that is done by culture and common sense.

"I don't blame Spain for this, things like this happen in all countries. The most important thing is respect for people.

"Also, this is a very important match. Right now it's a pleasure to watch Vini, not just for Madrid but for all of football. 

"Everyone likes to see his quality and his talent, like with Pedri, Gavi, [Kylian] Mbappe and [Erling] Haaland... It's a pleasure for football to be able to enjoy this quality."

Real Madrid will be without key midfielders Toni Kroos and Aurlien Tchouameni for their trip to Liverpool but Karim Benzema has made Los Blancos' squad.

Benzema, last year's Ballon d'Or winner, has had an injury hit campaign and missed Saturday's win over Osasuna.

Yet the 35-year-old, who has scored 14 goals this season, returned to training ahead of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 clash at Anfield and has subsequently been named in Carlo Ancelotti's travelling party.

However, Madrid will not be able to call on Kroos or Tchouameni.

The injured duo did not play against Osasuna and were not included in Madrid's squad, which was confirmed on Monday.

Ancelotti will be hoping Kroos and Tchouameni return to fitness in time to face city rivals Atletico Madrid on Saturday in LaLiga, with a Copa del Rey Classico against Barcelona following on March 2.

Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 in last season's Champions League final, a match that was overshadowed by policing issues outside of the Stade de France.

Vinicius Junior scored the only goal as Thibaut Courtois turned in a fine display to help Madrid claim a 14th European crown.

The second leg of the last-16 tie will take place at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 15.

Carlo Ancelotti lauded Vinicius Junior as an "extraordinary player" after the Real Madrid star stepped up in the absence of Karim Benzema.

Madrid's LaLiga top scorer Benzema was rested for the trip to Osasuna on Saturday ahead of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 clash at Liverpool.

Vinicius twice saw goals ruled out for offside at El Sadar and assisted Federico Valverde as Madrid ran out 2-0 winners to cut Barcelona's lead at the top-flight summit to five points.

The Brazil winger created a team-leading three chances for Los Blancos, much to the delight of coach Ancelotti.

"It is clear that Vinicius is a player who makes a difference," the Italian said at his post-match press conference.

"He played an outstanding game. He is an extraordinary footballer."

Ancelotti was less impressed with the manner of Madrid's victory, though, after waiting until the 78th minute for Valverde's opener before Marco Asensio sealed the points 14 minutes later.

"What I liked least is that we have done in the second half what we could have done in the first," he added.

"What I liked most is that the team has not lost its mind and has been patient [in the final stages]. 

"The team has played well. They have had to suffer when they had to suffer and we are very satisfied with that."

Toni Kroos also missed the visit to Osasuna, as well as Aurelien Tcouhameni, but Ancelotti assured Madrid will be prepared for the first leg at Anfield in Europe.

"We had a last-minute problem with Tchoaumeni, but we're fine," he continued. 

"We will go into Tuesday's game with good dynamics. The players are recovering and we will arrive with all the confidence in the world."

Real Madrid closed the gap on Barcelona at the LaLiga summit after late goals from Federico Valverde and Marco Asensio downed Osasuna 2-0 on Saturday.

Carlo Ancelotti rested Karim Benzema ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash at Liverpool as Madrid, also without Toni Kroos, struggled to victory at El Sadar.

Chances were limited without top scorer Benzema, but Valverde's calm finish after 78 minutes and Asensio's similarly cool strike 14 minutes later snatched a vital win in Madrid's title defence.

Victory moved Los Blancos five points behind Barca ahead of Xavi's side hosting Cadiz on Sunday.

Sergio Herrera thwarted a glorious Vinicius Junior chance after an errant Jon Moncayola pass, while Thibaut Courtois parried away from Moi Gomez in an entertaining opening.

Valverde whistled a long-range attempt narrowly off target before Ante Budimir whipped the best first-half opportunity just wide from the edge of the area.

A resurgent Madrid twice went close to breaking the deadlock after the interval.

Rodrygo had Herrera scrambling with a curling effort that evaded the bottom-right corner and Vinicius' cool finish was denied for offside from David Alaba's throughball.

Osasuna responded as Gomez struck the right post with a driven effort through a crowd of Madrid defenders before Moncayalo volleyed narrowly wide with Courtois static.

Madrid finally edged in front against their mid-table opponents as Vinicius crossed for Valverde to coolly poke into the bottom-right corner, before the Brazil international saw another goal ruled out for offside.

Asensio sealed victory in the closing stages with a deadly finish past Herrera following Alvaro Rodriguez's selfless pass.

What does it mean? Madrid keep feint title hopes alive with another Osasuna win

Madrid have enjoyed their recent visits to Osasuna, winning four of their past five LaLiga trips – they had triumphed just once in their previous six league games at El Sadar before that.

Yet another success on the road at Osasuna means Xavi's Barca cannot afford to slip up, with a potentially title-deciding Clasico at Camp Nou coming in March.

But for now, Madrid's attention will turn to defending their European crown at the resurgent Liverpool, who have won back-to-back games to end a poor start to 2023.

Energetic Vinicius leads the way

Vinicius was central to all of Madrid's attacking play as the Brazil star shone in the absence of key attacker Benzema.

The winger was twice denied by offside decisions and created a team-leading three chances, including the pivotal assist from the left flank for Valverde's opener.

Ancelotti record over Osasuna continues

Ancelotti continued his impressive managerial record against Osasuna with this victory.

The Italian has faced Osasuna eight times in all competitions without losing (W4 D4) – only against Elche (W7 D1) has he managed as many games without defeat (among LaLiga teams).

What's next?

Los Blancos visit Anfield in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday, before a crucial derby at home to Atletico Madrid in LaLiga four days later.

Karim Benzema would not have played if Real Madrid's Champions League round-of-16 first leg with Liverpool was on Saturday, says head coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Ancelotti ruled out Benzema from featuring at Osasuna in LaLiga this weekend as Madrid look to chase down leaders Barcelona, who currently hold an eight-point lead.

Benzema missed the World Cup with France with a thigh injury, and he was also absent for Madrid's league defeat to Real Mallorca and the Club World Cup semi-final victory over Al Ahly with a muscular issue.

The Ballon d'Or winner did then play and score in the Club World Cup final against Al Hilal and netted twice against Elche in midweek.

Madrid appear to be managing Benzema with a focus on big matches, but Ancelotti insisted on Friday he would not have been able to call on the striker the following day regardless of the opposition.

The European champions visit Liverpool in their next match on Tuesday.

"If the match were against Liverpool tomorrow, I wouldn't play him either," Ancelotti told reporters. "We prefer not to risk him.

"He's a bit tired, like many players, it's true, but he's coming back from an injury, so it's different.

"We hope he will be there by Tuesday."

Ancelotti acknowledged Benzema's advancing age contributes to the requirement for extra precautions to be taken to ensure he is fit and available at the business end of the campaign.

"After the World Cup, he has done very well," the Madrid boss added. "He has scored in almost every game.

"He is not injured. We simply prefer, due to his age, to give him rest. And that way he will be well for the rest of the season."

Madrid bounced back from the 1-0 loss at Mallorca with a 4-0 thrashing of Elche, but with Barcelona winning 11 of their past 12 league matches, Ancelotti knows his team must carry on taking maximum points to keep up with the rampant pace Xavi's men are setting at the summit.

"The goal is to get [the gap] to five points for the moment," Ancelotti explained. "The calendar is demanding, with important matches, and we want to keep the good feeling.

"We're good, but we can improve even more, and we're going for it. In football, you can go from the best to the worst in no time, and vice versa."

Carlo Ancelotti saluted "complete" Karim Benzema after the Real Madrid captain became the club's second-highest LaLiga scorer of all time.

The striker struck twice from the penalty spot in Wednesday's commanding 4-0 win over bottom side Elche, taking his Spanish top-flight tally for the club to 230 goals – surpassing Raul's 228 – with only Cristiano Ronaldo netting more on 311.

Marco Asensio and Luka Modric were also on target as Ancelotti's side closed the gap on league leaders Barcelona to eight points.

And the Italian paid tribute to his in-form number nine, who has now been directly involved in 15 goals in his last 14 appearances for Madrid (12 goals, three assists).

"Karim is not just a striker," the Italian said. "He is very complete, he combines well – today especially with Rodrygo. He is always ready in the area and helps us a lot in possession.

"His career is fantastic and hopefully he can continue. Real Madrid wants him at this level.

"Every game is good to gain confidence. When you win 3-0 and relax, there can be problems and I don't want it. The moment is good. We must maintain this dynamic of concentration and commitment."

Ancelotti also defended his decision to bench Modric, who completed the rout with a wonderful strike 10 minutes from time, as Dani Ceballos, Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde comprised Madrid's three-man midfield.

The head coach highlighted the importance of rotation with his squad aiming to chase down Barca, while a blockbuster Champions League last-16 tie with Liverpool is also on the horizon.

"Modric is untouchable for me and for everyone. Everyone is important, and I have total confidence in everyone," Ancelotti said. "I have to rotate because it's a very demanding season.

"The statistics say that [Toni] Kroos scored against [Athletic] Bilbao when coming off the bench [in last month's 2-0 win] and that, today, Modric has scored coming off the bench. From there, they can contribute goals."

Karim Benzema has surpassed Raul as Real Madrid's second-highest goalscorer in LaLiga.

Benzema moved onto 229 LaLiga goals, from 428 appearances in the competition, as he slotted in from the penalty spot to nose Carlo Ancelotti's side into a 2-0 lead against Elche on Wednesday.

Marcos Asensio's superb goal gave Los Blancos an early lead at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Benzema doubling their advantage just past the half-hour mark after Enzo Roco had handled in Elche's box.

Benzema subsequently scored his 230th LaLiga goal before half-time, converting his second spot-kick of the match.

Madrid great Raul took 550 matches to net his 228 LaLiga goals, meaning Benzema has overtaken him in 122 fewer games.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who is Madrid's record goalscorer, stands way clear of Benzema on 311 goals from just 292 LaLiga appearances.

Benzema was already Madrid's second-highest goalscorer across all competitions, having surpassed Raul last year in that regard.

Carlo Ancelotti insists Real Madrid will fight to claw back Barcelona in the LaLiga title race.

Los Blancos sit in second place, 11 points behind their Clasico rivals with a game in hand, which they play against Elche at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Fresh from winning the Club World Cup after beating Al Hilal 5-3 in Morocco at the weekend, Ancelotti stated his belief that winning trophies makes you hungrier for more.

"I don't think it's a problem for Real Madrid," he told reporters. "The idea I have is that winning helps you win. When you win you feel things you want to repeat.

"Repeating is motivation for us. We have a disadvantage in LaLiga, but we're going to fight."

Madrid have won just four of their last nine LaLiga games (D2, L3) and were beaten 1-0 at Real Mallorca last time out.

"I don't need to give arguments," Ancelotti added. "Our fans know the professionalism of this team, of these players. They know that we are going to fight every game. I don't think anyone thinks that we are in a 'critical' situation."

The Italian coach was without Thibaut Courtois in Morocco, with the goalkeeper getting injured prior to the Mallorca defeat, but while Courtois will also not be available against Elche, Ancelotti believes he could have the 2022 Yashin Trophy winner back for Saturday's game against Osasuna.

Toni Kroos will also be missing on Wednesday through illness, though Eder Militao and Lucas Vazquez are in line to return.

"Courtois will not be there tomorrow, I hope he will be there for Saturday against Osasuna," he said. "Militao returns, Lucas returns... We have Kroos out, who has a problem."

Ancelotti was positive about Kroos' long-term availability, though, hinting that the German midfielder could sign a new deal with the club.

"I know what is going to happen, but I can't say it. I'm not Kroos," he said. "He hasn't told me, but the feeling is that he's going to renew, but we'll see."

When asked about Karim Benzema doing the same, Ancelotti replied: "I don't know, but I repeat: the legends of Real Madrid must retire at Real Madrid."

He was more certain that Benzema will still be at the club next season, though, despite suggestions that Madrid will be in the market for a new striker at the end of this campaign.

"Well, that Madrid needs a nine is an opinion," he said. "We have Karim, who is not a child, but he will be with us next year. This is not the time to think about next year."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.